Speedgolfers conquer course in Moscow

Steve Vancil, who placed first in the Idaho Speedgolf Championship at the University of Idaho Golf Course on Sunday morning, runs to his ball on the 18th fairway.

For those used to playing or watching “regular” golf, with players meticulously lining up putts or taking three or four practice swings every shot, speedgolf might be a nice change of pace — and a decent workout.

The sport, which combines athleticism of running and precision of golf, made its debut in Moscow on Sunday with the Idaho Speedgolf Championship at the University of Idaho Golf Course.

Former pro golfer Steve Vancil, of Oregon, bested the field with ease with a score of 126:02 — a combination of his 18-hole golf score (76) and the time it took him to complete the course (50 minutes, 2 seconds).

One of the top-ranked speedgolfers in the world, Vancil said he picked up speedgolf 15 years ago because he wanted to get a workout and a round of golf in and then get back home to spend time with his family.

“And then it just morphed into started playing in these tournaments,” said Vancil, a 52-year-old high school teacher who finished fourth at the U.S. National Championships last year. “Speedgolf is awesome because you can play it anywhere and you’re back in an hour.”

And which clubs to use? That’s really up to each individual, Vancil said.

Vancil, who works at a golf course during the summer, said all the clubs he uses he found in the “lost and found” that had been there for two years. His clubs are a 3-wood for driving, 4-iron to putt, 7-iron and a 56-degree wedge.

“That’s how I chose them to begin with,” Vancil said with a laugh. “It’s just what they had in the lost and found and I just made it work.”

Event organizer Chris Hundhausen held the event in Moscow this year, a year after holding a tournament at Palouse Ridge Golf Club in Pullman. This year’s event had eight participants.

Hundhausen, who finished fourth, said the small field was due to the U.S. National Championships being only couple of weeks away in New York. He expects next year’s event, back at Palouse Ridge, to be a two-day affair.

“I think it’s just a really wonderful combination of those two activities that probably people don’t think of of going together,” Hundhausen said. “We’re kind of all about playing golf faster.

“We think it’s more fun and you actually play better because you take your head out of the way. It’s more of a reactionary sport like basketball, than an analytical sport.”

The key is to hit the ball straight, not necessarily far, so you can get to it, hit it, and continue down the course. Speedgolfers wear running shoes and use only a handful of clubs.

Hundhausen said being a decent golfer is the best attribute to being a good speedgolfer, but speed is important too. Players can save time by being quick in transition — “bag down to bag up” between shots — but still taking a little extra time to slow their heart rate on pivotal putts.

“The best players in the world try to get bag down to bag up in five seconds,” Hundhausen said. “That’s really where you save a lot of time. You don’t have to have burner speed down the fairway.”

Several participants said the hilly and windy course Sunday made for a challenge.

“This is tough,” was a phrase multiple golfers used running up a steep hill to the 16th hole and one joked “I need your lungs,” as he ran by.

But that didn’t mean the scores weren’t still impressive. Second-place Rex Schultz tabbed a 140:40 (80 in 60:40) and third-place Gary Sobczak recorded a 144:53 (83 in 61:53). The full results an be found online at tiny.cc/idaholb.

“Those hills are fun to run,” said Sobczak, of Indiana. “It’s always fun to run the downhill. It’s a very picturesque scenic course. Idaho is a really good place to be to play speedgolf.”

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Stephan Wiebe can be reached at swiebe@dnews.com and 208-883-4629.

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